David Song
SJI Class of 2020

As the incoming Third Vice President of APSE, Steve Hemphill understands the unique obstacles that small papers across the nation currently face.

The Roanoke Times sports editor has been part of APSE since 1998, previously serving as chair of the Atlantic Coast region (2016-17) and chair of the Futures Committee. Few were initially aware of his eligibility for Third VP because the Roanoke Times had previously been considered a Category A or B paper due to its size.

However, Roanoke now classifies as a smaller Category C paper, which made Hemphill eligible for Third VP. Outgoing APSE President Todd Adams asked him to consider running for the position due to his experience working at publications of varying size, including the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald, Longmont Times-Call and the Roanoke Times.

“Inclusion of small papers is one thing, but making sure that [APSE] is practical to small papers has always been the challenge,” said Hemphill, whose career began at Scottsbluff. “The goals of a small paper compared to a major daily are quite different, and I’ve been on both sides.”

Reporters at smaller papers often perform multiple roles out of necessity. Hemphill has been a writer, designer and editor during his career, and notes that other small-paper journalists could also be involved with photography and public relations. Moreover, those working at smaller publications may need to deal with a regional editor in a different city or state.

COVID-19 has generated new challenges as well. Most small papers focus heavily on covering high school sports, which face an uncertain future this fall. Without the scope or resources of major publications, small papers are deeply impacted by the absence of sports.

“It’s really hard to come up with a lot of story ideas that are unique,” explained Dan Spears, the outgoing Third VP and a longtime friend of Hemphill’s. “We’re all very frustrated because none of us can do anything, and you can only write that so many times.”

To address these issues, Hemphill intends to continue one of Spears’ most valuable ideas: facilitating discussion among APSE’s small-paper editors via telephone and video-conferencing. Both men believe that communication among industry professionals will be key to building relationships and generating innovative ideas.

Hemphill also aims to ensure that APSE is of good value to small-paper editors, many of whom are paying membership dues out of pocket. For example, smaller publications would benefit more from APSE professional development opportunities geared towards them. Furthermore, Hemphill wants to see the yearly APSE contest add categories relevant to the smallest of papers, which have only one or two people running their operations.

Spears believes that APSE has always respected the voices of small publications, and will continue to do so going forward. “We are important to the very top of the organization, and that’s a credit to [APSE’s] leadership,” he explained.

Hemphill agrees. While he doesn’t have the answers yet, he plans to help the incoming leadership build an agenda that better accounts for the needs of small papers. Hemphill’s two-year term begins this June.

Spears believes that APSE has always respected the voices of small publications, and will continue to do so. “We are important to the very top of the organization, and that’s a credit to [APSE’s] leadership,” he explained.

Hemphill agrees. While he doesn’t have the answers yet, he plans to help the incoming leadership build an agenda that accounts for the needs of small papers. And Spears is confident that Hemphill is the right man for the role.

“Steve is nothing but trouble,” Spears said with a laugh. “No, he is going to be a tremendous Third Vice President. He gets along with everybody, he is a great listener, and I think he’s going to be a great person to take on this job.”

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